In the first culinary bombshell of the year, heralded chef Javier Plascencia has announced that he will be officially ending his longtime relationship with Mexiterranean Hospitality, with whom he opened Romesco in Bonita over a decade ago and launched Bracero Cocina de Raiz in Little Italy in 2015. The instantly-buzzy Bracero earned Plascencia the 2015 Eater Award for Chef of the Year, while Bracero was named Restaurant of the Year. In 2016, Bracero also made Eater’s coveted list of the best new restaurants in America.
The busy chef, who has been juggling his responsibilities with Bracero and Romesco along with running several restaurants in Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe, including Mision 19, Finca Altozano, and the just-opened food truck Lupe, will be focusing on developing his own projects south of the border although he doesn’t rule out the possibility of bringing future new restaurants to San Diego.
Plascencia’s full statement reads:
Entering 2017, I will be parting ways with Mexiterranean Hospitality which includes Bracero Cocina de Raiz as well as Romesco. Bringing my cuisine to downtown San Diego with Bracero two years ago was an experience I truly enjoyed. It brought many unforeseen challenges and with that, learning and growth. The experience was equally rewarding as it was challenging for me, and I will be forever grateful to San Diego for embracing myself, Bracero and Romesco.
Together, we were nominated for a James Beard award as well as several other accolades from the San Diego community. I consider myself lucky to have been able to share my passion in the kitchen with Mexiterranean Hospitality; however, it is important for me to shift my focus into my independent projects. Going into the new year I will be taking time to focus on my restaurants in Tijuana, Valle de Guadalupe, as well as a new project I have in the pipeline in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur. Additionally, I will be further developing my boutique hotel concepts.
San Diego will always be a second home to me and I have future plans to pursue new ventures there independently. I wish Mexiterranean Hospitality continued success in the upcoming years.
In the short term, Plascencia told Eater that he may consider bringing a version of Lupe, his new casual torta concept, to San Diego. He says that he would be interested in eventually bringing a smaller restaurant to the local market, and is currently evaluating several options as well as interviewing chefs who might serve as his right hand on the project.
Eater has reached out to Mexiterranean Hospitality for a statement and will update when more information becomes available.
UPDATE: Mexiterranean Hospitality's Luis Peña replies: "I truly wish Javier the best of success, and along with reflecting upon so many highlights we have shared together, such as being nominated for the James Beard award, San Diego’ Best Restaurant awards and creating unique spaces for people to savor the roots of Mexican cuisine and history, I continue to look at the road ahead with great anticipation."
Peña recently expanded Bracero's kitchen to offer weekend brunch and shared that newly-installed chef Eduardo "Lalo" Covarrubias will be taking Bracero's Mexican-Mediterranean menu in a "traditional-contemporary" direction, though some of Plascencia's most popular dishes will remain. As for Romesco, Peña says he is looking into opening another location of the bistro, perhaps in downtown San Diego or further north.